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Alumnus leaves $400,000 to UW System

October 2, 2008

A donation of $400,000 was made to the UW System by an alumnus that passed away and is to be evenly split between UW-Madison’s department of Bacteriology and UW-River Falls’ College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences.

The alumnus, Lester Baribo, was a 1943 graduate of UWRF who majored in agricultural education. He went on to complete a Ph.D in bacteriology at UW-Madison and the majority of his professional work was with the Weyerhaeuser Corporation, a U.S. company involved in the forestry industry and the production of related products, according to their Web site.

“For our College, this is certainly one of the largest donations that we’ve ever received,” CAFES Dean Dale Gallenberg said.

Since the indication was that the money should be for general support of educational programs in agriculture, the College has flexibility in deciding how to best allocate the funds. 

“You hope that there aren’t too many strings attached [to donations], that you can use them towards your priorities,” Budget Director Kristen Hendrickson said.

The money is likely to be spread out in a number of projects, some of which will be fully funded, while others only partially with the balance from other sources.

The projects likely to be fully fundable include classroom renovation in the colt barn, redoing study and gathering places in the Ag Science building and the purchase of a number of laptop computers. Projects that could be partially funded include agricultural engineering lab renovation and a water lab that could be used by several departments.

Rachel Bartel, a senior agricultural business major, said that she agrees with redoing study areas in the Ag Science building. 

“The ag lounge [a study area across from room 116] is always pretty full, loud and hard to study in,” Bartel said.

The list of projects had already been formulated in the form of an annual budget request, but after the Baribo donation Gallenberg consulted with the associate dean and department chairs and pulled out items from the budget request that could be funded by the donation.

“We’re taking the funding needs that we have, that we’ve submitted to the University, and said, ‘Here are our highest priorities,’” Gallenberg said.

Hendrickson gave an approximation of the impact that $200,000 would have on meeting the priorities of the College.

“Let’s say they submitted 20 requests, they are going to be able to fund ten of them through this gift,” Hendrickson said. 

Normally it could take years to meet that many requests and only one or two would be realistically funded by the annual budget.

Budget requests are submitted annually to the budget office and then various committees on campus review them. The committees critique and comment on the proposals and then pass them to the chancellor’s cabinet, which adds further input, before the proposals end up in the hands of the executive cabinet.

There is also student input and representation through the various committees, such as on the Information and Instructional Council (IITC), which has eight openings for students (only two of which are filled), according to their official Web site. The Student Senate makes all of the student appointments to budget review committees and an important qualification for students seeking a position on a committee is simply an interest to be on it.

“We usually have a hard time filling the spots,” Hendrickson said.

The largest donation that the University as a whole has received was last year when Lucile Spriggs, a 1938 graduate who majored in history and English, left $1 million to the University for scholarships. 

Although alumni and other external support is only a small portion of the overall budget, it is becoming increasingly important to the University because of declining state support. 

“What we would like to think is that state and federal support is used to conduct base programs, and other external support allows us to do some new and neat and exciting things,” Gallenberg said. “Increasingly, we’re having to rely on other support to fund our base programs as well.”

The UWRF Foundation is working to start a campaign that will seek donations from alumni and others that can help the University.

“I think we’ve seen more of these types of gifts lately,” Hendrickson said. “Hopefully if we put together a campaign, we’ll see even more of them.”